Issue 16: ‘Performance’ by Stephanie

The Dance of the Virgin

I was trembling that night, carrying
in my hands the slightest bit
of confidence, so fragile
it would have shattered
into a billion pieces if someone
had dared to sneeze in the room
next door. Yet I was standing tall, just
like mothers tell their daughters
to stand, so they will be taken
seriously when they have
to speak in front of a man.

When I was eight and crying
because Tommy had made fun
of my story about living in a bubble
floating in space in front of the
entire class, mother said:
‘Don’t let no silly
boy bring you down.’
She would have been proud,
seeing me on this stage,
dressed in nothing but
my self-confidence, which
had taken years to craft.

But you
with your bold, fake pride that
didn’t need to be carefully cultivated
like a woman’s self-love,
dared to take out your
hammer and wreck
the only thing I ever owned.
As I stood there alone – the audience
wrapped around my body –
like a coward, you decided to
shatter all my courage
with that one sentence

I was grieving my loss that
night, lying in foetal position
on my own stage, away
from the spotlight,
my self no longer exposed
to you, and everyone else
who spat on my body with
their eyes. But soon
I remembered and realised
that the Empress was right

I should never beg
a man to give me back
what they attempted to crush,
because how can you
mend something
you never owned?


Stephanie was born in Luxembourg City and has lived and studied in the UK, where she recently completed her Master’s in Comparative Literature. Her work explores the fluidity of human relationships, sexuality and identity.

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